People are upset with a districts decision to increase school hours and days to make up for instruction time lost during a massive strike.
These are words no student wishes to hear – more school hours and more school days. In an effort to make up instruction time lost due to a lengthy teacher’s strike, the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) district will be adding both. The hours will be added to the end of the school day and the days will find themselves tacked on to the end of the school year.
Starting today, students and teachers will find themselves in classrooms for an additional 42 minutes, making up for instruction time lost. This will account for five of the 15 days lost when teachers and support staff went out on strike on March 8. This strike sent over 29,000 students, along with 4,500 teachers and support staff, home for a lengthy period of time, which now must be made up to meet state educational requirements.
To make up the additional 10 days of instruction time lost, the MPS is adding those to the end of the school year, which now will end on June 24. Two weeks more of school also means two weeks less of summer, which is already putting a crimp on student and family plans. They made their thoughts well known.
At a Minneapolis Board of Education meeting prior to voting on lengthening school days and calendar year to make up for instruction time lost, students and parents began to push back. They were vocal as they pointed out that the lengthening of the school year will impact jobs, summer camps, sports, and already planned vacations. The school board then went back and forth, discussing the issues even further. In the end, though, the school board felt it didn’t want to risk financial and criminal penalties they could face from not adhering to state law.
One MPS high school, in particular, is having a very tough time with the new instruction time lost rules. The North High School’s student council even wrote a letter to the MPS asking them to reconsider. “It’s not fair and equitable that North High students would have to stay longer and leave later than any other school in the district,” the letter read via Fox 9 News. They actually have a solid case for their own school not being included in the additional hours.
North High students end their school day at 3:30 pm while most other schools in the district end at 3:00 pm. Ten years ago, North High added the additional 30 minutes as part of the school’s plan to raise its instructional standards. The students and staff are now saying because of this, they in no way should have to add on an additional 42 minutes for instruction time lost. They claim they haven’t lost even one minute of instructional time.
“If we do the math, we already hit the minutes that are required by the Department of Education,” said Sarah Spleiss, a North High teacher regarding the instruction time lost issue. “Our students are meeting all the requirements, why are we asking to do more.” Although the MPS says they are extending the hours and days to meet state requirements and avoid potential penalties, Spleiss feels that the district made a one-rule-fits-all decision that shouldn’t include her own school. “There’s just a lot that doesn’t make sense and there’s a lot that was looked over,” claimed Spleiss.
A teacher’s union representative said of the instruction time lost that the district wants “to meet the needs of students and families, but the current plan does not do that…. Unfortunately, MPS leaders are digging in their heels on the current language.” This means the students of North High will be going to school until almost 4:15 pm every school day on top of adding on the additional 10 days.
Educators in Minneapolis, through the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) and Education Support Professionals, began their strike that lead to instruction time lost on March 8. They were fighting for “a living wage and lowering class sizes, and for safe and stable schools.” As MFT president Greta Callahan noted at the time via CNN, “We have continued to do so much more with so much less. Those at the top of this district continue to hoard power — continue to do so much less with so much more. And if we don’t intervene, we believe that the Minneapolis Public Schools will cease to exist. We are in the fight for strong public schools for our city, for our students.”
Ultimately, what they got was 15 days of instruction time lost and more damage done to students that additional daily time and days added on to the end of the school probably won’t cure. To some, the ends justify the means. To others, they have no choice but to deal with the fallout.